What were you doing when you were 10 years old? Many little girls may have been playing with dolls or riding bikes. Karin Rae Matthee, who was born and brought up in Cape Town, was learning how to work with silver. Her father designed jewellery as a hobby and began to teach her how to work with metal to create 3D shapes. So, it wasn’t a surprise that she decided to become a jewellery when she grew up. She received her BA in Jewellery Design at Stellenbosch University in Germany. However, she was quickly drawn back to South Africa where she launched ‘Dear Rae’ in 2010. Here are some need-to-know facts about the designer and her elegant pieces:
On the business side of things
While the BA fine Art (Jewellery and Metal Techniques) at Stellenbosch University gave her the necessary know-how for design, it didn’t fully equip her with the entrepreneurial savvy. Apart from having a creative voice, she knew that one of her goals would be to empower and employ South Africans to grow her brand. Thus, she completed a semester at the Pforzheim Hochschule in Germany.
When she started out, she was wholesaling her items to different stores in Cape Town as an outlet to sell from. She then made the decision to pull out all her stock from these boutiques after two years and open her own store. While this would mean a healthier profit margin for her, she mainly made the move to have more control over the customer experience. Thus, the creative space based in Woodstock hosts the store in the front and the workshop in the back. This allows customers to witness the jewellery being made in real time, as well as, give them the opportunity to interact with the Dear Rae team directly.
Matthee makes the original concepts and prototypes of each piece that appears under the Dear Rae Banner. She then trains her team of manufacturer to handmake each individual piece in their Cape Town based studio. It should be noted that Dear Rae does use CAD (computer aided design) for designs that call for higher levels of intricacy. It can also be tapped into when a client wishes to fully be involved in the design process. That said, Dear Rae does give quite a bit of information to help their customers make the best decision for themselves and their style. From advice on how to choose a diamond and the types of cuts, to other stones you can use, as well as, ring styles and selecting the right gold for you or your partner.
The type of jewellery that can be found at Dear Rae can fall into three categories. There is the everyday range that is their more affordable jewellery made from silver and brass. The functional jewellery comes to life via simplistic forms and natural lines that revel in the exquisiteness and ease of minimalism. Then there is the luxury range that works with semi-precious stones, gold and diamonds. Last, but not least, is the customized range where customers can commission pieces such as bespoke engagement rings. Granted that the last two categories are made from semi-precious materials, they are made with the intention of being worn every day.
Love for Recycling & Eco Care
For starters, if you have an old ring that you’d like to give new life, they recycle diamonds and gold to be reset or melted down. As they mention on their website. “The great thing about gold is that it can be reused repeatedly, and its quality and integrity will not be influenced. All gold you bring to the studio will be weighed and you’ll be credited the amount from your quote.”
Then there’s the aspect that they are conscious about how mineral mining affects the ecological landscape. Therefore, Dear Rae only works with diamonds that comply with the the Kimberly Process and are certified through the leading gem certifiers in the world, including Gemological Institute of America (GIA), European Gemological Laboratory (EGL) and DIA.
Her take on originality
Every creative wants their work to come across as original and unique. However, that can be hard to achieve when copying is strong within the industry. Matthee didn’t want her products to take the trend-focused approach and thus decided to take a social media hiatus for an entire season. This allowed her to reconnect with her inner child and create from a place that was genuine and unique. Another technique she uses to keep her collections as fresh as possible to centre the design process around a story or theme that resonates with her. This could be anything from tropical plants or the novel Life of Pi.
Rumi is her latest collection that speaks to the tune of equilibrium, bravery and balance. Through materials such as gold, silver and brass, she pays homage to the inevitable moments along the self-discovery journey. ‘To reconnect with our essence through a ruthless embrace of authenticity. And to find equilibrium within the false dichotomies of Masculinity and Femininity; Power and Vulnerability; Strength and Softness; and Right and Wrong.’ She collaborated with fellow artist, Amy Keevy, whose artworks highlighted the power of balance when sharing in the creative process. As further explained on their online journal, “Once we find balance within ourselves, it translates so naturally into moments we wish to share on our journeys. These collaborative collages represent an undefined space that celebrates the embrace of opposites: Feminine and Masculine; Strong and Soft; Natural and Geometric; Warm and Cool.” We’ll leave you with some images from Rumi but do check out the entire collection here.
*** Photographer: Caroline Viitanen| Photographic Assistant: Franco Kellerman | Model: Jodie Slot | Art Director: Amy Keevy | Hair and Make-up: Nandi Kai | Stylist: Munnike Geldenhuys | Motion: Curio | Jewellery Designer: Karin Rae Matthee | Dresses: Graydawn ***